Gubinare, Okavango, Botswana, July 1983
We had been'marching' all day across Gubinare and beyond the lagoon. Tea break lasted only half an hour as Chris was eager to get going, so by dusk, we were all pretty weary. Camp was, at this stage, we thought, a long way off. To risk fumbling our way across marshes and plains with lion around would be foolish. Little else to do but to make an almighty fire and sit around it all night. It was the month of June and nights were cold.
Unfortunately, I was not dressed for a night out under the stars, wearing only a flimsy pink shirt and my shorts. Food too was scarce, and the rucksack only packed for a days excursion, so tea was our saviour. Chris had shot a green pigeon so there would be a little protein and our rucksack did contain the basics for survival out here, oil, fat, salt, sugar and tea. Our camp was close to approximately 300 buffalo which added a little excitement to the proceedings.... I had already singled out a tree I would shinny up at a moments notice! There was an abundant supply of firewood around, so a healthy fire could be maintained through the night. After eating our meagre supper and consuming endless cups of tea, we arranged ourselves around the fire, like moths around a candle. The art was to heat up as much of the bod as possible while the remaining part froze into the night. Chris begrudgingly allowed me to use the rucksack as a windbreak, which at least kept the chill from my rather exposed rump. I made a vain attempt at keeping up moral by inflicting on my companions a selection of Beatles songs that i didnt really know the words to. This did little to enhance mine and Chris' strained relations. And as men are wont to do, he defected to a morula tree and made his own fire! I didnt think my singing was that bad.
As the moon came slowly up, our quarters were illuminated. I looked over at Sal, now sleeping peacefully, curled around the fire, and clutching a Barclays Bank moneybag to her bosom, which was full of earth. The 'pillow's ' contents in this instance, were of far more value than the usual paper stuff that banks filled such bags with. Chris was lying with his back to me, his head perched rather precariously on a plastic cannister full of Holsum fat. He looked as tho' he was in the rigamortis position. I simply sat as close as possible to the fire, dreaming of hot baths and cheese sandwiches. That night seemed to go on for an eternity, I was so glad to see the sun come up at 6am. We left imediatley without even the usual procrasting cup of tea. The morning air was still very cold, which hastened our step somewhat and brought us back to camp two hours later. Four green pigeons were zapped en route.
We have, on gutting the birds, discovered that they are remarkably fond of Motsibi berries which are, as Chris found out to his cost, poisonous to humans. This made hunting a lot simpler, wherever Motsibi flourishes, there do the green pigeons too! Another pigeon we hunt quite regularly is one that does not appear to be in the Roberts Bird book, so has been named the 'Mcensis'.
13th July '83 I smell so sweet, my bath was beautiful, except for the fact the mokoro began drifting off down river.... All in a girls beauty treatment I suppose.
Chris is quite amazing... One minute an evil old bugger, the next a sweet charming person. I remain his friend but find the personality shifts hard to predict and to understand.
21st July 1983 Maun
It does not pay to mentally pre-plan an event as I did with my return to Maun. Hence, on arrival, I was just waiting for my expectations to transpire and even began looking for the negative aspects which blocked all possible positive occurrances. It was really not as bad as I had thought it would be.
The trip from the delta to Maun was 'interesting' to say the least. We left in convoy with some friends of Chris' who were visiting. We arrived at Mokobelo's village in good time. Chris had left his mokoro there and I was going to pole it down to Maun. Unfortunately, or rather, quite typically, the vessel had been 'borrowed', so my maiden trip down the Boro River was postponed. The four others went to Delta camp to fly out while Sally and I went with the infamous rogue 'Killy Billy' to his village downriver. As we neared Xaxaba village, the rinky tinkle of African music drifted over the water. In the distance I could see the bright colours of a washing line and silhouetted figures swaying capriciously with the palm trees. A pit stop was made. Killy Billy refilled his vast tummy with more cardi, leaving Sal and I to scan the collection of mokoro's for our own Cleopatra. It was futile to demand anything of Killy Billy, he was a seperate entity - a rule only unto himself and I felt sure that his vast tummy was cultivated purely by those who fear to cross him. A definate rogue, who has learned all the tricks of the trade in the tourist industry and knows exactly the right buttons to press for instant fascination, followed by great appreciation.. usually in the form of alcohol, food or the latest peice of African technology.... the torch (flashlight). I watched the entire process take place, with Chris' friends as the appreciative party.
It was obvious Sal and I were not going to be permitted to stay with our friends at the wildlife dept, which was just across the river from Killy Billy's village. A whole list of excuses gushed from KB's fat lips - whereas the truth was concealed in the obese and enlarged portion of his brain known as the cunning. He is a notorious poacher, so doesn't get on very well with the legal aspect of that art.
We stayed at his village for what felt like 3 weeks, but was only in fact one night. Our 'kitundu' (luggage) was dumped without an ounce of care right in the centre of the village and within 2 feet of the river which lay dank and still, buzzing with mosquitos. The lagubrious process of carting our meagre belongings to a more inspiring setting proved sufficiantly discomforting. We eventually found a grass area just outside the general throng, altho' I'm convinced it was the toilet, as the aroma was not that of violets.
We went to sleep quite early, which was just as well as the morning rapidly descended into chaos with Sal and I trapsing back and forth to the village in an effort to motivate our trusty, but now extremely drunk poler, KB. Each time we were informed that the second poler had been sent for from Delta camp, but had not yet arrived. This gave KB another hour or in which to consume yet more cardi and enjoy a bit of slap and tickle with one of his wives.
We became a little annoyed at this point, and were fed up with the whole bibulous village. Sitting truculently by the river, surrounded by our treasures, various people wandered down to try and sell us baskets or srounge whatever they could. Enough was enough at this stage, so we marched back to the village and literally stood over our hero, who by now was swaying, until he produced two polers and two mokoros. I found it quite disturbing watching these people reel around and yell at nothing inparticular. A retarded woman writhed sub-conciously around in the dust, her eys rolling, understanding nothing of what we concieve to be reality. Maybe hers was the reality?
When we kept nagging KB, he eventually began giving instructions to various lethargic looking youths draped around the place, and soon, eventually, and not a moment too soon, two mokoros materialized. Amidst the confusion and drunken array, an elderly gentleman emerged wearing a straw hat and carrying a walking stick. He almost looked distinguished. Sal noticed him too and remarked what a wise, respected old gent he must be. I agreed totally that he was truly a breath of fresh air to the proceedings, whereupon the old 'gentelman' extended his wrinkled arm and filled his scrawny hand with a good portion of a young girls rump. A shriek of provocative delight ensued, causing all young maidens in the vicinity to withdraw from the old studs grasp. I laughed out loud... such a 'gentleman'!!